Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Last Sunday at St. John’s
1 Kings 17:8-16
November 11, 2012

Grace, mercy and peace to you from 
God our Creator, Jesus our redeemer and the Holy Spirit the one who sustains us.

I want to say a tremendous amount in this sermon this morning. I want to be able to explain the text perfectly because it’s my last sermon with you. I want to use it to kick off a financial stewardship campaign because it is that time of year again. I want to be able to talk about little Frederick Vincent Stoll as he is baptized and remind you of the baptismal life that we share.

I want to adequately express to you how much you all mean to me; how you have helped me to grow and strengthened me for the next call, the new journey, the adventure that God has prepared for me. I want to put into words how much I love you. And I know it won’t all get done and I will fall short. So, I’ll just talk about our first lesson.
Go with me on the path leading to the town of Zarephath. Here we will find Elijah. Elijah is a prophet who has just before our text today been living a very sparse life: You see he had dared to predict a drought in the name of the Lord and there is indeed a severe drought in the land. 
This drought will not end until Elijah says so. So, I imagine to avoid recriminations and repercussions from the people who are suffering because of this prediction God had Elijah hide himself by the Wadi Cherith, which is a little brook. There he is fed by ravens a ration of bread and meat both morning and evening.

We find him here because of the brook has dried up because there is no rain. “Then the word of the Lord came to him saying, Arise go to Zarephath which belongs to Sidon”

He starts on his journey to Zarephath because God has told him that a woman will provide for him. Seems impossible in the middle of a drought when there is scarcely food for anyone.
Yet, Elijah has every reason to trust God after all up until now God’s word has been trustworthy and true.

As he enters the town he sees a widow gathering sticks and he says to her Please get me a little water in a jar that I may drink.”and while your at it. “Please bring me a piece of bread in your hand.”
You should hear Vicar Blake’s outrage at Elijah’s request from the widow…"How dare he?
….in the midst of all that she is going through…in her fear and in the pain of not being able to care for her son…to keep her son nourished and fed to have this stranger, this foreigner who comes asking her to share with him the little she has.This is outrageous!….Isn’t it?"

After all she tells him,“I am gathering a few sticks that I may go in and prepare for me and my son, that we may eat it and die.” Can't Elijah get a clue?  Elijah persists. He utters those famous biblical words, “Do not be afraid.” And we know something is about to happen.

One commentator asks in Sundays and Seasons:
How would you live if you were not afraid? Fear is used by politicians to gain our votes, by the media to get our attention, by advertising firms to sell us what we don’t need, and by TV evangelist to get our donations. What fear is used against us? The fear that we won’t have enough or won’t get our share.” 

“We struggle with feelings of scarcity despite the abundant world that God has created.”

Yet, when the widow shares her paltry meal with Elijah, she discovers in her risky generosity that the abundance of God will, can, does supply her basic needs. This widow is connected with the bounty and abundance of God.

The bible tells us that the jug of oil did not fail. There was enough: enough for Elijah, enough for the widow's son, enough even for the widow.  The bible reminds us of God’s provision and God’s abundance. "They ate for many days."

We have been living a little sparse lately---hurricanes, power outages, snow storms.
Many of us have lost loads of food, warmth from our homes, and have almost lost our minds.
But again and again I have seen the offers of generosity, heard of friends taking in friends, estranged families helping each other.

So here’s my stewardship pitch. In the light or darkness of all we have been through
in the last few weeks, we have the opportunity to continue to risk generosity. We know that there are those who are still suffering, those still without lights or heat or provisions, those who have lost everything. And though we may not have much we have enough to share. We can respond to the goodness of God in our lives.

We can be like this widow and give food to Loaves and Fishes, give food and clothing through community agencies, give money to Lutheran Disaster Response, the Red Cross and to St. John’s, so this congregation can continue to be known as a warm and welcoming place,

There might not be much for sure---much energy, much patience, much well--- just not much. But there has been enough. Enough to take us through these strange and frightening weather conditions.There is enough!

Enough for the people of St. John’s to weather the storms of transition. All the stuff happening at St. John’s--- with the beloved musician gone and even the pastor leaving. Talk about being pushed over the edge. And though right now there isn’t much called staff here---there is enough!

Look around you. Look around at your family and friends. Look around at the fellow members of this community of faith: at the talented musicians; at the capable and quick intern; at the tenacious and efficient staff; at the detail oriented council. If you aren’t paying attention it may not seem like much. But look at God’s provision, God’s abundance. It’s enough to get you through these changes, to help you in a call process and into the next phase of your wonderful life together…

Elijah sat by the brook and wondered how he was going to be fed and God provided; he walked into Zarephath and met a widow who was looking to die, yet God provided. Hurricanes, winds and snow storms and we’re still here. God provides.
And God promises. For St. John’s God’s promises are trustworthy and true. The promises that come to us through Jesus on a cross and in an empty tomb. The promise that little Frederick Vincent Stoll will receive today. These promises are of God’s unconditional love, grace, mercy and forgiveness…. 

God’s provision and God’s promises are what has held me up through the last nine and ½ years. Some of which were a little rocky.

And these promises will hold all of you. 

These promises might not seem like much when you are going through a hard time, when all hell is breaking loose in your life, when the power, the energy, the resources are scarce. Yet, God’s grace, mercy, forgiveness, God’s love never fails. Especially when we see God’s love through helping hands, family and friends who come together to help one another, through the prayers and support of those all over the country and the world, through the community of faith. May not seem like much but, it’s enough.

All the widow had was some meal and a little cruet of oil and it was enough.

As they say in the black church tradition “It may not run over, but it won’t run out.”

To remind you no matter what your going through, no matter your fears, God gives enough
I have a gift for you a little vial of oil. It may not seem like much, but it symbolizes the oil you were anointed with in your baptism.  The oil that traced the sign of the cross on your forehead as you were, "Marked with the Cross of Christ forever."

It is a token of my love for you and a reminder of God’s unconditional love for us all.

Remember: "It may not run over, but it will not run out."



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